A Hot Cup of Murder

One time, the Archbishop of St. Louis tried to shut down a New Line show called Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll. I'm not kidding. He failed. Well, he successfully shut down our preview, but we were open again for opening night. You can read about that here.

Our show was just a revue of theatre songs on those topics, three of the most powerful forces on humans, including songs from Rent, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Avenue Q, Songs for a New World, Hair, The Rocky Horror Show, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Naked Boys Singing, Company, Nine, I Love My Wife, Oklahoma!, The Last Five Years, Reefer Madness, No, No, Nanette, The Wild Party, and The Nervous Set. Sounds morally terrifying, doesn't it? Yet the Archdiocese was determined to shut us down. So bizarre.

More recently, a Christiany website tried to organize a form-letter campaign against our production of Jerry Springer the Opera (apparently they protest all productions of the show), but we only got 3 or 4 emails, and they were all identical. Some of the actors were afraid we'd have protesters at the theatre, but I knew these were the type who protested only if they could do it with one click.

Crazy shit, huh? But I can top both those stories, in terms of sheer weirdness.

One of our longtime New Liners, Colin DeVaughan, was working at Harrah's Casino in the early 2000s, and they were looking for events to bring in, that would attract busloads of seniors, who would then gamble the rest of the night. Colin told me about it and asked if we wanted to create something.

At first, I wasn't interested, but the more I thought about it, the more the idea of writing a murder-mystery-comedy intrigued me. So over the course of a few weeks, I wrote a (non-musical) comedy called "A Hot Cup of Murder." The script was recently published and you can get it on Amazon here.

Since we'd be performing the show in a banquet hall while people were eating, I set my show at a political fundraising dinner, where a rich guy named Preston Seaborn is launching a Senate campaign. But about ten minutes into the dinner, Preston drops dead in his entree, leaving his wife and bratty, 20-something kids to handle the awkward situation and unintentionally reveal all their worst impulses and secrets to the guests. And then a cop named Coffee shows up, with a mysterious past...

The cast included Colin, Mo Monahan, Robin Kelso, Troy Turnipseed, and Troy Schnider. We had a lot of fun with it.

We did the first performance at Harrah's and, despite the incredibly crazy, twisting story, the full house of seniors laughed at all the jokes, gasped at revelations, and had a really great time. We even got a standing ovation. We felt great about it.

Now here's the crazy part...

All the other planned performances were then cancelled. After all the work we'd done. No explanation. And we didn't get paid nearly what we had been promised.

Then a few months ago, I stumbled onto a website for "Parents of Murdered Children Inc.," which sends out "Murder Is Not Entertainment (MINE) Alerts" (not kidding), and on one page of the site, it had a list of their protests, and one item said:
January, 2001
Harrah's Casino
POMC was successful in protesting Hot Cup of Murder, a murder mystery hosted by Harrah's Casino.

I could barely believe it. Our little comedy was shut down by protesters!

And it made me wonder, do these folks protest every play or movie with murder in it? Or even every comic play or movie with murder in it? When would they sleep...? The truth is: murder is entertainment. Sophocles and Shakespeare and Arthur Conan Doyle and the writers of Murder, She Wrote all knew that. Oh yeah, and the Bible.

Their website says, "POMC makes the difference through on-going emotional support, education, prevention, advocacy, and awareness. POMC Vision Statement: To provide support and assistance to all survivors of homicide victims while working to create a world free of murder."

"Support and assistance" by telling everybody else what stories we're allowed to tell? While I have sympathy for parents of murdered children -- who wouldn't? -- how does this make sense? How does shutting down our play make any of those parents feel better or replace the terrible hole left in their lives?

That's easy -- it doesn't.

Just another example of people trying desperately to control strangers. It's so baffling to me. It's rare we've had issues like this, but it still happens and it will happen again. America is not past that kind of silliness quite yet.

To be clear, there were no children in our play and certainly no children murdered. And also, there are a shit-ton of movies, plays, TV shows and novels about murder, many of them dark comedies. I have a weird feeling that the operators of POMC are taking advantage of grief-stricken parents for their own agenda of trying to control the expression of others. That's pretty fucked up.

Though not entirely surprising in the Trump Era, sadly. That's okay. Imagine how all those folks' heads would explode if they'd ever see Bukowsical, Wild Party, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson... We'll always get the last laugh, because we're the ones who make the art, and it's the art that gets remembered.

Long Live Uncensored Uncontrolled Theatre!